We've reviewed many of the innovative 'Flip' video family of products over the last few years. Pure Digital Technologies, the creative little company behind Flip, left all of the well established camera and video vendors playing catchup. Larger, slower, less innovative companies see the acquisition of these agile small start-ups as their way to 'catch-up'. Innovation by proxy as it were. This was the case with Pure Digital Technologies - although in this case rather than an established camera company the suitor was networking giant Cisco. Now this was obviously not a particularly good fit for a company whose main exposure to the consumer market was through those little boxes that sit in the corner, only really because you have to have one. Ask your average consumer about Cisco and you're likely to be matched by a blank stare.
Not unpredictably Cisco now finds itself in a hole. In the US tech sector if you're not growing spectacularly then you're history and Cisco so don't want to be history. In a story repeated time and again a large company flush with cash buys companies seemingly at random for prices that seem absurd (Cisco paid $590m almost exactly 2 years ago) only to close them without a backward glance a short period later.
Why does this happen so often? It seems that very few large companies have what it takes at the head to generate any sensible strategy or to ignore the short-term quarter driven view of investors to see the long game. Companies that can do this are few and far between and it doesn't last forever. Regardless of what you think of Apple, they do innovate, they do take a long term view and they have a healthy disregard for short-sightedness!
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